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him. He may wink at others, but cannot wink at us. The husbandman is not dishonoured by the unfruitfulness of a wild tree, upon which he has bestowed no cul. ture; but the barrenness of what is planted in bis garden, or inclosed field, reflects upon himself, and therefore he cannot be unconcerned about that, but must vindicate his honour upon it, by cutting it down, and casting it out as a cumberer of the ground.
Secondly. We may observe, that not only gross apostacy, but event he smallest decays among his people, are highly offensive unto him. This church had many good things among them, and after the commendation that was given them in the second and third verses, one would be ready to put the question, What lack they yet? But our Lord remarks the coldness of their hearts, and resents that inward and secret declension from their for. mer love and zeal, and threatens them with swift destruction if they did not repent. O how does this magnify God's patience towards us! and what cause have we to tremble and be afraid of bis judgments, seeing we have not only fallen from our first love, but by gross and open acts of enmity have made it extremely doubtful, whether there be any remains of love abiding with us at all? But, without insisting upon these, my design is, to consider this threatening separately by itself. And my method shall be,
I. To shew that God may be provoked by the sins of a people, to remove the gospel from them.
II. I shall represent to you the terribleness of this judgment. And,
1II. Direct you to the proper use of this awful subject.
In the Scriptures we have many comfortable promises of the church's stability: it is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It was Christ's
promise to his apostles, “ Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;" not with their persons, for these were soon to be removed out of the world by death, but with their doctrine, which was to endure throughout all generations; so that we have the fullest assurance, that the Zion of God, or the universal church, shall never perish; that the light of the gospel shall never be extinguished; but that the King of Zion shall always have subjects to serve him in some corner of the earth or other. But though the gospel shall never be removed out of the world altogether, yet it may be removed from particular places. The candlestick is a moveable thing, and not an entailed inheritance.
The Jews are an eminent instance of this. Never was a nation so highly favoured as they. To them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; theirs were the fathers, and of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. They were God's chosen people, his peculiar treasure, his first born, and his spouse; for by these honourable titles were they long distinguished from the rest of the world. Nor were they only distinguished by ti. tles, but actually blessed with all the privileges which these titles imported. God was indeed a father and husband unto them: he cherished them in his bosom, and employed his almighty power for their preservation. He conducted their arms, and dictated their laws; he formed their state, and was present among them by a visible glory, and established a method of correspondence, by which they might have constant access to bim for coun. sel and direction in every case of difficulty. Never had any people such illustrious displays of the divine provi. dence in their favours. Some nations have had a long tract
of prosperity, a series of lucky accidents, as it were, by the help of which they have grown up to a very flourishing condition, but the various steps of their advancement were visible, and easy to be accounted for, and were nothing more extraordinary than a plentiful crop after a favourable seed-time and harvest, or the riches of a skilful and industrious merchant. But it was not so with the na. tion of the Jews; their prosperity was the admiration of all that beheld it, and forced them to acknowledge that the Lord was with them of a truth. God brought them out of Egypt by a high hand and an outstretched arm; the sea opened a passage for their retreat, and over. whelmed their enemies; bread was given them from heaven, so that man did eat angel's food; and the flinty rock yielded them water to quench their thirst. At the prayer of Joshua the sun stood still; and at the same time God slew his enemies before him with hail-stones from heaven, and gave his people a miraculous and com plete victory over them. And after they were put in possession of the promised land, they did not grow up like other states; they were oftentimes brought so low, that they seemed past recovery, and as often did God interpose for their relief; and the various changes they underwent were so sudden and surprising, as made it evi. dent to themselves and all about them, that their affairs were conducted, not by the skill and strength of men, but by the immediate hand of God, who, by his irresistible power, governs all creatures and things, so that none can stay his hand, or say unto bim, What doest thou? Yet, notwithstanding all these titles, and privileges, and providences, whereby God distinguished them in such a remarkable manner, they are now pulled up by the roots, abandoned by God, and despised among men. No spiritual dew falls upon those mountains of
Gilboa. Those that were as pleasant to God as the grapes in the wilderness to a thirsty traveller, are now of as little regard as the heath or the bramble. Of a tender father, he is become their enraged enemy; and flings vengeance down upon those heads wbich before he crowned with mercy. He caused the land in which he planted them, by a series of miracles, to spue them out because of their sins; and now they wander as miserable vagabonds over the face of the world, a standing monument of God's righteous judgment, and a sad proof that spiritual privileges are not entailed to any nation; but that God may be provoked, by the sins of a people, to remove their candlestick out of his place, and punish them with darkness, who would not walk in the light of it whilst they enjoyed it.
The seven churches of Asia, mentioned in this and the following chapter, are another instance of this. These had their day, but are now benighted; the judgments threatened in these gracious epistles, which were directed to them, have been long ago inflicted. The banners of a blasphemous impostor have long triumphed over the standard of the gospel. Nor is the once famous church of Rome a great deal better; for though the gospel is still professed and honoured by them in appearance, yet the light of it is so much obscured, and buried amidst the rubbish of idolatrous opinions and practices, that it is scarce discernible; and without breach of charity we inay say of them, that God hath given them up to strong delusions to believe a lie; so that they bave all the marks of a people whom God hath abandoned, though wrath be not as yet come upon them to the uttermost. By these examples we see that the gospel is not the inheritance of any particular people, but that it frequently has been, and therefore may still be forfeited, and that
God may be provoked, by the sins of those who enjoy the light of it, to strip them of all their privileges, by removing the candlestick out of his place. Let us now proceed, in the
II. place, To consider the greatness of this punishment. And if we view it aright, we shall soon be convinced, that a more terrible judgment cannot be inflicted upon any people or nation. What can be more terrible than famine?- Parents have been forced, against all the ties of natural affection, to devour their own children, and children to feed upon the flesh of their parents. The extremity of hunger bath reconciled very delicate people to things that are most loathsome and nauseous, carrion, dung, and vermine of all sorts; yet this is accounted a small judgment when compared with the other, (Amos viii. 11.) “ Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.” The want of spiritual food is so much worse than the want of natural food, as the soul is better than the body; the one makes the body weak, the other starves the soul, and leaves it both weak and wicked; the one may be a means to make us seek the Lord, but the other leaves us in gross darkness, without either help or hope. The gospel is the sun that enlightens the mind, the rain that waters the heart; it is that divine seed by which the quickening Spirit renews the soul, and implants a principle of spiritual life, which shall issue in a glorious and eternal one. By this our souls are refined, and our lusts consumed; without this, we can have no prospect of a world to come, por any kuowledge of the way that leads to it, for life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel, and by
it only we are told, that God is in Christ reconciling the